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Warmest regards: Who’s minding the kids?

I’m an avid reader who thrives on going to the library every week to load up on four or five books.

But one thing I’ve noticed when I read the cover flaps is that so many of the plots sound alike.

Finally I found an intriguing book with an original premise.

“The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See tells the story of a community on the Korean Island of Jeju where for many decades women were the ones who went to work to support the family while their husbands stayed homed to watch the children.

When a woman gave birth she immediately handed off the baby to her husband. All child care was the total responsibility of the men.

The women were engaged only in the dangerous physical work of diving under the sea to collect anything that could be food for the family.

Part of the long tradition of Haenyeo women, they were part of the all-female diving collective. They learned to hold their breath under water without the aid of wet suits or breathing aides and were totally revered for their work.

I wondered if all that was the imagination of a creative author, or, if there actually was a female diving community in Korea.

Research showed it was all fact.

I was intrigued by descriptions of the dangerous deep sea diving and even more intrigued by a culture where all child care was done by the men.

What a contrast to what we have in America where tradition says the women are the primary care givers.

When I was first married and had children it was written in stone that my role was to be there for the kids while my husband’s role was to be the wage earner.

Our family priest convinced my husband that I needed a bit of time for myself. I chose to use that negotiated few hours of a “freedom pass” to take a college course.

But my husband made clear my main responsibility was taking care of our daughters. I had to first be there to put the girls on the school bus and be there to pick them up at the end of the day.

There was no problem with this and it seemed to be working well. I managed to get back and forth from classes at Bloomsburg without disrupting our family routine.

Our daughters knew when they got off the school bus I would be there waiting for them.

But then a surprise winter storm created a major problem while I was at the college.

My neighbor Pat was driving that day and she thought her big heavy car would be able to make it through the snowstorm.

But while climbing a hill the car skidded and landed in a ditch. We would need a tow truck to get us out of there.

These were the days before everyone had a cellphone to call for help during an emergency.

There we were, shivering in the cold as we tried to find a solution.

Fortunately, one of my college professors stopped to help when he saw we were stranded. He generously offered to take us to his house where we could get warm and call a tow truck.

I used his phone to call my husband at work to tell him I was stuck in Bloomsburg while we waited for the tow truck. He had to pick up our daughters who would be waiting outside the elementary school.

He never went to pick them up. He forgot about our daughters while he coped with problems of making sure the school busses could still transport kids.

He was in work mode. Not family mode. Not once did it cross his mind that if he couldn’t pick up our daughters he had to send someone else to do it.

Our daughters were shivering in the snow as they waited outside the school for someone to pick them up.

I got back from college more than an hour late. No one noticed two little girls were stranded in the storm.

When I finally drove to the school there they were, two frozen ice cycles looking like abandoned orphans.

The next day one teacher told the faculty that Mrs. Mihalik went off somewhere and abandoned her daughters in the storm.

No one questioned why their father wasn’t there. He was doing what guys had to do - working.

I never resented my husband for not helping with child care. I honestly felt sorry for him. He had to put on a suit and go to work every day while I could have fun with our daughters. I loved every minute I could spend with them and thought fathers were missing out.

I notice many guys have gotten smart and are spending more time with their kids. But for the most part, women are still the primary caregivers.

One thing I have noticed is that I never hear a guy say “Oh, I wish I would have spent more time at work.”

But I do often hear guys say they wish they would have spent more time with family.

Many guys in my daughter’s generation seem to be wiser about family time.

And women seem to be more apt at reminding them to spend more time with kids.

They grow up too soon. Enjoy them while you can.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.